Many years ago, when McLaren’s relationship with Mercedes was showing signs of stress, I posited the notion that they simply build their own engine or purchase the then departing BMW F1 team’s engine program.
I wondered at the time why this wasn’t a consideration and then someone in the F1 press thought about asking the team boss, Martin Whitmarsh, if they would build their own engine after Mercedes left.
Martin’s answer was really down to a cost/benefit analysis and how the costs didn’t add up to a positive program. At the time, we were talking about a relatively stable V8 engine format and still they seemed to feel that it didn’t make sense to build their own.
Fast forward to 2017 and McLaren are in a difficult situation with an engine supply that isn’t performing at the levels they expect. The question now crops up again but this time it isn’t a simple V8, it’s a overtly complex hybrid engine that took millions and millions of dollars to design. McLaren boss, Zak Brown says costs would have to come down with the new 2020 regulations in order for them to consider it.
“We’re interested to see what the new engine formula is in 2021 – and whether we consider doing our own engine, or whether other people would come in under new rules,” said Brown.
“So right now we’ve got to focus on the next three years and, as soon as we get that figured out, then yeah, of course we’ve got to look.
“I think the landscape in Formula 1 is going to change in a very positive way from ’21 onwards, with budget caps, revenue redistribution, and new engine rules.
“So it’s a little hard to take any decisions on ’21 with so many things that will change.”
In the end, it still seems that making its own engine isn’t something they are completely on board with rather favoring a supplier:
“We’d be very much in favour of there being an independent, competitive engine, not just an engine that makes up the numbers,” he said.
“The manufacturers are great, I fully embrace them.
“But it would be healthy for the sport, like it’s been in the past, to have an independent engine that teams can use should they choose, and it be a competitive engine. That’s key.
“The last time around Cosworth was in, and at the end they weren’t competitive.
“So it doesn’t work to just have an independent engine if it’s not something that you can win races with.”
I completely understand their thinking here as Martin said all those years ago. What I am less convinced of is the reasoning given that in fact, this isn’t a privateer team, it is a road car manufacturer and at some point, wouldn’t McLaren benefit from having its own engine program that can then be used for its super cars? Like Ferrari and Mercedes?
I could understand if Red Bull weren’t keen or Williams, Force India or Sauber but McLaren is a supercar manufacturer and it would seem to me that an engine program would make more sense for them than anyone else relying on an engine supply.
Red Bull even wanted to try and amalgamate their own version of a Renault and name it TAG but McLaren seem intent on sticking with a supplier and I have to acquiesce to their goals as they know best what they can and cannot afford. I would like to see them make the move and start a holistic F1 program of chassis and engine to finally compete with Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault.
Hat Tip: Autosport